Health Department - Living with Urban Wildlife

Many wildlife species can't survive in close proximity to humans, but others have learned to adapt to man's encroachment on their territory. Skokie is home to many of these secretive, usually unseen neighbors. They include Deer, Coyote, Fox, Raccoons, Squirrels, Opossum, Beaver, Muskrat, Rabbits and many others. Some people object to this "intrusion," forgetting that wildlife plays an important role in our lives.

Peaceful co-existence with our wild neighbors is most successfully achieved by allowing these animals their niche in Skokie while taking measures to prevent them from becoming a nuisance. The following do's and don'ts will help prevent problems and risks.

DO’s

Tightly screen all access holes into buildings. Vents, gables, chimneys, eaves, and pipes are all potential entryways for wildlife to set up residence in the attic or under the home.

Secure trash in sturdy cans with tight fitting lids. If necessary, tie the lids down so they won't become dislodged if the can is tipped over. Also, wait until the morning of pick-up to put trash out.

Eliminate any food source that may attract wildlife such as fallen fruit or pet food left unattended.

Construct fences and walls high enough to exclude smaller animals. To stop animals from digging under a fence attach chicken wire to the bottom and bury it at least 6 inches deep and 6 inches outward, parallel to the ground. Burying cinder blocks around the bottom of a fence will also discourage digging.

Clear brush, dense ground cover, wood piles, and garden debris where rodents may be living. Reducing the rodent population will eliminate an attractive food source for coyotes, foxes and snakes.

Protect caged animals such as rabbits. A hutch that stands above ground should have a solid bottom to prevent your pet from becoming easy prey for a coyote or raccoon. Also, remember the dexterous hands of raccoons can undo many latches.

DON'TS

Don't feed wildlife. It will lure animals from the surrounding areas in overwhelming numbers leaving them dependent on you for food and at risk from other humans who may harm them.

Don't corner or try to catch a wild animal. If you come across a wild animal, keep children and pets at a safe distance and leave it alone. Odds are it wants to get away from you as badly as you want it to leave. If the animal appears to be injured, call the Skokie Health Department’s Animal Control Division for assistance at 933-8484.

Don't set out poison bait. More than likely the wrong animal will consume it or the dead poisoned animal will be eaten by a non-target animal, such as a hawk or your dog or cat, and in turn be poisoned themselves. Also, a poisoned animal will frequently die under a building or some other inaccessible area leaving you with an unremovable smelly carcass.

Don't seal an entrance hole in a building or the opening to a den site unless you are certain the animals living there are not present. Make a tracking patch by spreading a thick layer of flour in front of the entrance. When you see paw prints leading away from the opening it is usually safe to seal the entrance. Most animals leave their dens at dusk to search for food. If, however, you cannot catch the animal out of its den, try driving it out by placing ammonia soaked rags in the nesting site; again, make a tracking patch and wait. If necessary, re-soak the rags twice daily. If you are uncertain of the number of animals in the nesting site, try hanging a piece of hardware cloth larger than the opening on the outside. The animals can then swing the hardware cloth outward to escape, but cannot reenter.

Don't try to smoke out an animal that is living in your chimney. It can easily be overcome by smoke and fall into the fire. Try placing a dish of ammonia in the base of the chimney and open the damper a little. The fumes should force the animal out the top. If an animal is trapped in your chimney, you can place a thick rope into the chimney, far enough to reach the animal, secure it at the top and leave. Most animals will scale the rope and escape. To prevent animals from getting into the chimney in the first place, install a wire mesh cap over the top. Never climb a ladder or go onto your roof if you are not physically fit and able to take all safety precautions. The Animal Control Division of the Health Department can give you a list of contractors who are better prepared to handle jobs that might be dangerous.

OTHER TIPS

Trapping and relocating animals is generally not legal unless you have a permit issued by the State of Illinois. Also, removing a nuisance animal is only a temporary solution; others will soon move in from surrounding areas to take its place. Animals can only be relocated to specific release sites where studies have shown the area able to support newcomers. Releasing animals into unapproved areas causes problems for the released animal as well as the existing population. For more information about trapping and relocating animals, contact the Skokie Health Department’s Animal Control Division at 933-8484.

Many animals do not like walking on an unfamiliar surface. Laying chicken wire or plastic sheeting on the ground may discourage an animal from passing through an area where it is unwelcome.

To assist an animal that has become trapped in a window well, lean a rough branch thick enough to support the animal's weight into the window well. The animal can then use it to climb out.

To help prevent damage to roofs by wildlife avoid planting creeping vines near walls and keep tree branches trimmed away from buildings. This will help eliminate an animal's access to the roof. Also, tacking sheet metal around trees or on walls will keep animals from getting the footing they need to climb. The sheet metal should be at least 2 feet wide and attached about 3 feet above ground level.

Ornamental fish ponds can be protected from raccoons by attaching wire mesh (preferably a type that won't rust) horizontally around the circumference of the pond. It should be at least one foot wide and submerged about 2 to 6 inches. Raccoons cannot reach over the mesh and because it is unstable are unlikely to try standing on it.

The Skokie Health Department’s animal control officers are available to answer your questions and assist you with certain wildlife problems by calling (847) 933-8484. Please remember that humans and wildlife can coexist in Skokie. In most cases, if you don’t bother the wildlife, the wildlife won’t bother you.